Artemis Fowl Review

Yesterday I announced the seventh annual Christmas in July Blogathon! If you are interested in participating or want to know more, check out this announcement post.


Artemis Fowl movie posterSynopsis
When his father is kidnapped for his knowledge of a powerful fairy artifact, Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) must use clues left in his father’s journal to find the artifact and rescue his father, Artemis Fowl, Sr. (Colin Farrell), from a mysterious figure.

Review
I’m aware that Artemis Fowl is adapted from a young adults novel series. I’m also aware of the troubled production history this film had from when its movie rights were sold until it was finally released. Then with the pandemic, this moved from a summer blockbuster slot to a Disney+ release. Between those issues and Disney’s difficulty adapting other popular young adult novels, such as A Wrinkle in Time, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this film is ultimately a let down.

For starters, the story is extremely shallow. There is a MacGuffin that both the heroes and the villains are trying to find because reasons. It’s never explained clearly what it’s for or why it’s so powerful, just that it is because magic. The main villain, who is played by the uncredited Hong Chau, is never really seen or given much motivation or backstory. The team of heroes band together because it’s needed for the plot to move forward. Oh, and there’s a disgraced fairy officer that is given his job back because the bad guy wants him to become a mole and no one seems to question it. So yeah, there’s a lot going on.

It is said it is better to show and not tell in cinema. Apparently, the writer of Artemis Fowl never heard that saying before because this film is littered with exposition. Between narration, news reports, and characters relaying back story, a good number of classic exposition tropes can be found in this film. We are constantly told how smart Artemis is, we are constantly told Artemis has a strained relationship with his father, we are constantly told how good of a thief Mulch Diggums is, but very little of any of that is actually shown.

Because we are always told things rather than shown them, this movie moves both too quickly and too slowly at the same time. The story and characters are constantly rushing from scene to scene and things happen for no rhyme or reason other than because the story needs them to. The break-neck speed of the story never really lets the audience get a good handle of what’s going on because by the time you think about think you know what’s happening in the scene, it’s on to the next one. This film moves too quickly for its own good. Yet with all the exposition, scenes themselves drag on. It’s truly a weird dynamic.

The actions scenes were really the only part of the movie that kept my attention. However, they were marred by middling visuals. Some of the set pieces were exciting, like a troll rampaging through Fowl manor, and actually kept the film from becoming a snooze fest to me. But as flashy as these scenes were, things looked a bit too cartoonish, which in the end took me out of the experience just enough to not get the full enjoyment.

I thought Artemis Fowl was OK 😐 I can’t convince myself to say this is a bad film but it’s close. Even with a non-existent story, mediocre visuals, and pacing issues abound, I must admit that I had at least a little bit of fun. Not enough to revisit it again but enough to call it mediocre at best. Too bad though, given the popularity of the novels. Once again we’ll have to settle for a book-to-film adaptation that doesn’t live up to its source material. Not even Disney, it seems, can solve that mystery.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Kenneth Branagh – Director
Conor McPherson – Screenplay
Patrick Doyle – Composer

Ferdia Shaw – Artemis Fowl
Lara McDonnell – Holly Short
Josh Gad – Mulch Diggums
Nonso Anozie – Domovoi Butler
Tamara Smart – Juliet Butler
Colin Farrell – Artemis Fowl, Sr.
Judi Dench – Commander Root
Nikesh Patel – Chief Tech Officer Foaly
Joshua McGuire – Briar Cudgeon
Hong Chau – Opal Koboi

Inception Review

This review was originally posted as part of Table 9 Mutant‘s IMDb Top 250 project then updated and reposted for the Ultimate 2010s Blogathon, hosted by Tranquil Dreams and me.

Inception movie posterSynopsis
Dream extractors Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and their team are hired by Japanese businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) to perform inception, or plant an idea in someone’s mind, on Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), son of Saito’s dying competitor.

Review
Christopher Nolan is a writer and director who is known for films that are bold, that go big, and that are completely original. One of his boldest and biggest films came between the latter two films in his influential The Dark Knight trilogy. Inception has all of Nolan’s trademark elements and, most importantly, the cast to make it work. And it works. It works in a spectacular and unforgettable fashion.

Sometimes movies try to explain their world before getting into the story, often using an overbearing amount of exposition. But Inception doesn’t do that. Rather than use the beginning to set up the technology or concept to enter one’s subconscious, it is used to introduce the notion of dreams within dreams, which becomes an important aspect of the story later on, and also simply give an idea of what it the technology does. The movie accepts that entering dream space is already an established technology so it can start with a bang. However, later in the film we do get the exposition needed to explain such a high concept technology. This information is given to us through Ariadne (Ellen Page), who acts as the bridge between the movie and the audience. But again, it is done in a way that is neither pandering nor dull, somehow making exposition exciting and entertaining.

Although there is a large ensemble, almost everyone gets their fair share of screen time. Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are the main focus but they handle the attention well and give amazing performances. They play off each other humorously and you can feel that their characters are close friends. I haven’t seen many of Cillian Murphy’s films but I’m impressed with his performance here, playing well opposite, and later along side, DiCaprio. Ellen Page is the newcomer to the team and acts a great surrogate for the audience. She offers an innocence and a bit of naivete to the group. However, I would have to say my favorite performances is Tom Hardy as Eames. He brings a charisma that fits his character perfectly.

Cobb has become one of my favorite characters in cinema. He is very complex and it’s easy to forget that he is a thief. He is an antihero but is one because of the circumstances and wants nothing more than to return to his family. Most antiheroes say they have good intentions and only become so out of necessity but secretly enjoy being a thief/killer/whatever kind of antihero they are. Cobb, on the other hand, is truly not a bad person and is only leveraging his skills in a way he believes will allow him to return to his family the quickest, even though it is not a way he would prefer.

I have mentioned many times in other reviews how important the score can be to a movie. Like most other aspects of Inception, the sound work and music beautifully complements what is happening on screen. The movie can get loud to accentuate the action going on but it also gets very quite, making these moments more intimate. Hans Zimmer is my second favorite composer (behind the wonderful John Williams) and for a good example of why he is amazing just look at this movie. His score is memorable and gives a certain gravitas to the events unfolding on screen.

There are some amazing visuals, too. Working inside a dream allows the action to be limited only by the imagination. One of the coolest is an early scene when Ariadne is learning about molding dreams. She is walking around Paris and makes the city fold on itself, among bending the streets and architecture in other ways. There is also a fight scene in zero gravity in a hotel hallway. And these are just a few! On top of that, many of the effects are done practically rather than with computer animation. Even though this film takes place in the dreamscape, it adds a bit of realism in a world that is anything but real. The effects department truly outdid themselves.

I thought Inception was GREAT πŸ˜€ Like most of Christopher Nolan’s films, it features a grand and unique concept. Even though the concept is big, it is never dumbed-down or spoon-fed to the audience. The film assumes that they can figure things out for themselves and moves on accordingly, offering marvelous and extraordinary action pieces and character moments. Each character is complex yet relatable and all the actors and actresses play well off each other. Nolan has proven time and again his place as one of the biggest and best storytellers in Hollywood today, and Inception just might be his crown jewel. So far.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Christopher Nolan – Director / Writer
Hans Zimmer – Composer

Leonardo DiCaprio – Cobb
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Arthur
Ellen Page – Ariadne
Tom Hardy – Eames
Ken Watanabe – Saito
Dileep Rao – Yusuf
Cillian Murphy – Robert Fischer
Marion Cotillard – Mal
Tom Berenger – Browning
Pete Postlethwaite – Maurice Fischer
Michael Caine – Miles
Lukas Haas – Nash

Jumanji: The Next Level Review

Jumanji: The Next Level movie posterSynopsis
When Spencer (Alex Wolff) travels back into the game of Jumanji, Martha (Morgan Turner), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) go in to rescue him.

Review

In an age of reboots and sequels, Sony decided to create a sequel to the beloved Robin Williams film Jumanji 20 years later with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. That film ended up being a heap of fun and another sequel was inevitable. Enter Jumanji: The Next Level. Jumanji: The Next Level brings back much of what made Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle so enjoyable mixed with just enough of something new.

The combination of Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, and Kevin Heart acting as avatars to teens and behaving as said teens was without a doubt the best part from the previous film. They are back at it again only this time they are acting as avatars for different β€œplayers,” except for Gillen who continues to behave like Martha. Rather than playing an awkward teen, Dwayne Johnson gets to do his best Danny DeVito interpretation and absolutely nails it, somehow being even funnier than last time. Kevin Hart gets to pretend to be Danny Glover to hilarious effect. Jack Black deserves all the recognitions for his acting. Previously, he was acting like a teenage white girl, now he is acting like a teenage black dude, and once again creates the biggest laughs of the film.

Awkwafina joins the crew this time around. She doesn’t come in until partway through the film and disappears what feels like shortly after she arrives. Which is a shame because she integrates with the rest of the cast well. Through some shenanigans she also gets to do her best Danny DeVito impression. Alex (Nick Jonas), the fifth avatar from Welcome to the Jungle, also joins the fun for a little bit but he also isn’t on the screen much. It is clear that the movie’s focus is on the characters of Johnson, Gillan, Black, and Hart. Which on one hand is great because they have great chemistry together but on the other hand causes the other characters to be sidelined for chunks of time.

Jumanji: The Next Level keeps with the video game motif and gives the avatars new abilities and a new villain to defeat. Just like Van Pelt from the previous film, Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann) is pretty flat and only acts as the villain because the movie says it needs one, much like video games themselves. There are also new environments for the team to explore. The sense of adventure returns bigger than before.

The concept of lives this time around isn’t taken as seriously. In Welcome to the Jungle, the movie makes the characters limited amount of lives important and a big part of the story later on, creating stakes towards the end of the film when the characters are down to their last lives. However, that sense of value isn’t found in this sequel. Characters lose lives quickly and unnecessarily. Excluding a couple acknowledgements of their importance, the concept lives does not play much into the story, which removes those stakes mentioned in the last film.

I thought Jumanji: The Next Level was GOOD πŸ™‚ It brings back many of the elements that made Welcome to the Jungle so much fun but with a few twists. The new cast members are great but don’t have enough screen time to make much of an impression, at least not a lasting one. After two decently successful outings, I wonder how many good levels this franchise actually has left.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jake Kasdan – Director / Writer
Jeff Pinkner – Writer
Scott Rosenberg – Writer
Henry Jackman – Composer

Dwayne Johnson – Dr. Smolder Bravestone
Karen Gillan – Ruby Roundhouse
Jack Black – Professor Sheldon β€œShelly” Oberon
Kevin Heart – Franklin β€œMouse” Finbar
Nick Jonas – Jefferson β€œSeaplane” McDonough
Awkwafina – Ming Fleetfoot
Alex Wolff – Spencer Gulpin
Morgan Turner – Martha Kaply
Ser’Darius Blain – Anthony β€œFridge” Johnson
Madison Iseman – Bethany Walker
Danny DeVito – Eddie Gilpin
Danny Glover – Milo Walker
Colin Hanks – Alex Vreeke
Rhys Darby – Nigel Billingsley
Rory McCann – Jurgen the Brutal

Promare Review

Promare movie posterSynopsis
30 years ago, people across the world began combusting. In the aftermath, those who could control the fires were called Burnish. In present day, Galo Thymos (Kenishi Matsuyama / Bill Kametz) the newest firefighter of Burning Rescue, works to stop the Burnish and protect the people of Promepolis from fires.

Review
Promare is the first animated feature from Studio Trigger, the Japanese animation studio whose animators and creators are behind such animes as Gurren Lagenn, Kill la Kill, and Little Witch Academia. While I haven’t seen most of their work, my friends I saw this movie with have and noted influences from and similarities to several of Studio Trigger’s previous works. For me, who is not as familiar, it was a new experience, but one I greatly enjoyed. As an animation fan, whenever I see a film that has a unique animation style, that’s a win in my book. The animation style of Promare is unlike anything I have seen before. It is vibrant, which in and of itself is not unique, but the way it uses the colors to accentuate the action is. It appears flat but is dynamic at the same time, particularly the way it portrays fire, smoke, and water. Lately it has felt like each new animated film I’ve seen has found its own design, allowing it to stand apart from other animated films.

This anime is very much an action film and it was edited like one. Tight camera angles and quick cut-aways, some of my action movie pet peeves, make the action difficult to follow at times, which was irritating because the action is extremely over-the-top but so exciting and it would have better to have seen it in all its glory. Knowing the history of the type of material this studio puts out, it’s no surprise that the best way to describe the action of this movie is β€œballs to the wall.” The first scene is a giant action set piece, then it slows down slightly for some exposition (not a lot of exposition but just enough to give you a hint of world building), followed by what feels like an hour long fight scene. Seriously, once it hits about the halfway mark, it never lets up.

I thought Promare was GOOD πŸ™‚ Once it puts its foot on the gas, it never takes it off. At times it can feel like a bit much but the ridiculousness of it all makes it humorous and entertaining. Studio Trigger has show that they can successfully translate what makes their different anime series popular onto the big screen.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Hiroyuki Imaishi – Director
Kazuki Nakashima – Writer
Hiroyuki Sawano – Composer

Kenishi Matsuyama / Bill Kametz – Galo Thymos (voice)
Taichi Saotome / Johnny Yong Bosch – Lio Fotia (voice)
Masato Sakai / Crispin Freeman – Kray Foresight (voice)
Ayane Sakura / Alyson Leigh Rosenfield – Aina Ardebit (voice)
Hiroyuki Yoshino / Billy Bob Thompson – Remi Puguna (voice)
Tetsu Inada / John Eric Bently – Varys Truss (voice)
Mayumi Shintani / Kari Wahigren – Lucia Fex (voice)
Rikiya Koyama / Steve Blum – Ignis Ex (voice)
Kendo Kobayashi / Michael Sinternikiaas – Vinny (voice)
Ami Koshimizu / Erica Lindbeck – Heris Ardebit (voice)
Taiten Kusunoki / Neil Kaplan – Vulcan Haestus
Nobuyuki Hiyama / Mathew Mercer – Gueira (voice)
Katsuyuki Konishi / Yuri Lowenthal – Meis (voice)
Arata Furuta / Mike Pollock – Deus Prometh (voice)
Ryoka Yuzuki / Melissa Fahn – Biar Colossus (voice)

Night at the Museum Review

Night at the Museum movie posterSynopsis
When Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) starts his new job as the night security guard at the Museum of Natural History, he learns that the museum holds an extraordinary secret: everything comes to life at night.

Review
Compared to some of Ben Stiller’s other films, Night at the Museum is pretty tame. I guess considering it is rated PG, it is aimed towards a younger audience. Regardless of the mildness of the action and fairly subdued humor, there is still plenty to enjoy. Stiller shows the range of his comedic chops. In something like Zoolander or Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, he is more eccentric and exaggerated, whereas here, he acted more like the straight man. He is given several people to play off of, such as Robin Williams and Owen Wilson, but the chemistry isn’t there to make any particular moment stand-out. One of the main focuses of the story was Larry Daley (Stiller) trying to connect better with his son, Nick (Jake Cherry), after his divorce. When the story focused on that aspect of the story, I found it flat and tedious. The story that interested me more was the museum exhibits coming alive. It has a Toy Story vibe, like β€œwhat would happen if these inanimate objects came to life?” As someone who likes to visit museums when I travel, this was exciting to me. Since it carries the PG rating, the action, like Stiller’s comedy, was fairly mild-mannered, at least for someone like myself who regularly watches action heroes get beat to hell and blow everything around them to smithereens, but I can see how the younger demographic could find it exciting.

I thought Night at the Museum was GOOD πŸ™‚ While it offered nothing too notable, it is not completely forgettable either. Both the comedy and action feel mellow if you fall outside of the films target demographic. However, it still offers an enjoyable experience if you roll with the lightheartedness of it all.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Shawn Levy – Director
Robert Ben Garant – Writer
Thomas Lennon – Writer
Alan Silvestri – Composer

Ben Stiller – Larry Daley
Carla Gugino – Rebecca
Jake Cherry – Nick Daley
Kim Raver – Erica Daley
Dick Van Dyke – Cecil
Mickey Rooney – Gus
Bill Cobbs – Reginald
Robin Williams – Teddy Roosevelt
Owen Wilson – Jedediah
Steve Coogan – Octavious
Patrick Gallagher – Attila the Hun
Rami Malek – Ahkmenrah
Pierfrancesco Favino – Christopher Columbus
Mizuo Peck – Sacajawea
Easter Island Head – Brad Garrett (voice)
Ricky Gervais – Dr. McPhee
Paul Rudd – Don
Pat Kiernan – TV News Anchor

Gabriel Review

Gabriel movie posterSynopsis
In purgatory, archangels and the fallen battle for the souls who have traveled there. Gabriel (Andy Whitfield), the last archangel to join the fight, must find his fellow archangels and defeat the leader of the fallen, Sammael (Dwaine Stevenson).

Review
Within the first few minutes, I was able to guess the time period of Gabriel‘s release. My initial guess was around 2004. Its actual release date is 2007. I bring this up because this movie’s style is such a product of its time. Not that that is a bad thing but all this movie has is style. The action scenes are clearly influenced by movie like The Matrix and Equilibrium but it doesn’t understand what made the action work in those films. The fight choreography in Gabriel was good and exciting. Unfortunately, the movie tries too hard to add flare to the cinematography of these scenes that it becomes detrimental the scene itself. I couldn’t see what was happening half of the time. For example, one fight scene takes place in a club with a strobe effect, one fight scene takes place in a hallway where the characters could only be seen through the door frames, and another takes place during a thunderstorm where the only source of light is the lightning. Frequently, there were many weird lighting choices that made the scenes hard to see and difficult to follow. And that’s not including all the cutaways, an obvious influence of The Bourne Identity.

Ignoring the poorly filmed action scenes, the story doesn’t do this film any favors. There is text and exposition in the opening to set up the concept of the fight between archangels, the fallen, and their fight in purgatory. It sets up rules for the fight between the light and the darkness and for the souls of those in purgatory but isn’t clear about what needs to be done to save those stuck between heaven and hell. Also, the revelation at the end was obvious and I called it halfway through the film. Maybe I’m thinking too much about this and should have just shut my brain off and (attempted to) enjoy the action sequences but there is too much about the story that wasn’t made clear that I just wanted to understand.

I thought Gabriel was BAD 😦 For an action movie, the action sequences are, while well choreographed, poorly filmed. Plus the story is mucky and unengaging. Unless you’re a fan of bad B-films, chances are you won’t find much in this film that is worth your time.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Shane Abbess – Director / Writer
Matt Hylton Todd – Writer
Brian Cachia – Composer

Andy Whitfield – Gabriel
Dwaine Stevenson – Sammael
Samantha Noble – Jade
Michael Piccirilli – Asmodeus
Jack Campbell – Raphael
Erika Heynatz – Lilith
Harry Pavlidis – Uriel
Kevin Copeland – Ahriman
Matt Hylton Todd – Ithuriel
Brendan Clearkin – Balan
Goran D. Kleut – Moloch
Valentino Del Toro – Baliel
Amy Mathews – Maggie
Paul Winchester – Marcus
Richard Huggett – Max